Beating the Broncos bête noire
Great rivalries make great sporting contests. Think Lakers v Celtics, Manchester United v City, everyone else v Collingwood.
Often clubs will have their own personal bogey team or fixture as well.
For years Collingwood had their “Colliwobbles” in grand finals; the Socceroos had the final match of World Cup qualifying; while Major League Baseball teams had an assortment of various curses (Curse of the Bambino, Curse of the Billy Goat and so on).
For the North Queensland Cowboys, our great rival and bogey team are one and the same: the Brisbane Broncos.
The Broncos had already won two premierships in just seven seasons when the Cowboys joined the competition in 1995; since then they’ve added another four (making it six wins from 6 grand finals). The are now talked about as the most successful non-representative rugby club of all time, winning 63% of their matches.
Their Wikipedia entry lists Queensland’s crème de la crème as celebrity fans: former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; former Test cricket captain Allan Border; reigning US Tennis Open champion Samantha Stosur and the late Steve Irwin.
Compare this to the Cowboys. Their win rate is just over half Brisbane’s at 37%; they’ve made exactly one grand final for one loss; and they don’t seem to have any celebrity fans (try googling a list of celebrity fans and you’ll get anything but). Apparently, Townsville-born cricketer Mitchell Johnson is a fan – and I find it only appropriate Australia’s most mercurial cricketer follows rugby league’s most mercurial team.
Then there’s the Cowboys’ poor record against the Broncos. Since 1995 they’ve won a grand total of six games against their Queensland rivals, drawn twice – and lost 24 times. In Townsville the record is even worse: two wins, one draw and 14 losses.
That first win in Townsville was memorable though. The Cowboys had managed to put years of underachievement behind them to make the 2004 finals before stunning eventual premiers Canterbury 30-22 in the third qualifying final.
This set up a semi-final against the Broncos, who graciously allowed the match to be moved up to Townsville. Watching the match with Cooma’s only other Cowboys fan (who happened to live in the flat above me), we couldn’t quite believe it as they not only recorded their first-ever win against the Broncos, but also held them to the grand total of zero points.
I don’t recall the second Townsville win (26-10 in July 2006) for the very good reason that I was working my way around Europe and not always able to keep up with events back home.
This time around I couldn’t watch most of the game on account of an indoor football match that started the same time as kick-off in Townsville. Not that it mattered – easing myself into the car after yet another back injury I turned on the radio to find the half-time score was 0-0. What I would have given to swap that half-time score with our 6-2, but c’est la vie, unfortunately.
Racing into work to catch a rockabilly band, I couldn’t believe that wave after wave of attacks were being repulsed by both teams. After a quick change I headed into the bar just in time to see Gavin Cooper stroll over the line after yet another break from Matty Bowen. Bowen then helped seal the win, holding the pass just long enough to draw the defender in and send Kane Linnett over.
So a 12-0 win to the good guys and a few new records. This was the Cowboys third win at home against the Broncos; only the second time they’d ever won both matches against Brisbane in a season (previously done in 2006); and most astonishingly, they became the first team to ever hold the Broncos to nil twice.
Beating the great rival/bogey team and setting a few new records along the way? Suits me.